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Kenya Vows to Cut Emissions as Cooking with Traditional Fuels Kills More than 21,500 Each Year

The health risks were greatest in rural areas, where 90% of households use wood stoves, compared to 70% nationwide, Kenya's first household survey

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Kenya, Emissions, Fuels
A trailer drives along the main Nairobi/Mombasa highway past sacks of charcoal, used for domestic cooking in many Kenyan homes, in Kibwezi. June 20, 2014. VOA

More than 21,500 Kenyans die each year from cooking with traditional fuels like charcoal and firewood, new government data showed on Tuesday, as authorities pledged to meet a global goal of universal access to clean cooking energy by 2030. Kenya.

The health risks were greatest in rural areas, where 90% of households use wood stoves, compared to 70% nationwide, Kenya’s first household survey on energy usage in cooking by the energy ministry and the Clean Cooking Association of Kenya found.

It also found that 80% of households relied solely on either charcoal or firewood as their primary cooking fuel, with 68 billion shillings ($660 million) of charcoal consumed each year.

Kenya’s energy minister Charles Keter said the situation was “grave” and called for more focus on providing clean energy options, such as gas and electricity, to the poor.

Kenya, Emissions, Fuels
FILE -Women walk out of the forest carrying wood to use for cooking, in Tsavo East, in Kenya, June 20, 2014. VOA

“This data underlines the great exposure to harmful pollutants which account for about over 21,560 deaths annually,” he said, launching the survey at a conference on clean cooking.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says 3 billion people globally cook with solid fuels such as charcoal and coal on open fires or traditional stoves, producing high levels of carbon monoxide, which kills about four million people a year.

Countries have committed to ensure universal access to clean, modern energy for cooking by the year 2030 as part of 17 global development goals, but low levels of investment in the clean cooking sector are hindering progress.

The widespread use of dirty fuels also contributes to climate change and deforestation, according to energy experts.

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Government officials said Kenya has committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% — where clean cooking will account for about 14% — under the Paris agreement on climate change, and it hopes to meet this target by 2028. (VOA)

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Kenya Starts Mass Vaccination of Girls against Human Papilloma Virus

President Uhuru Kenyatta termed the vaccine roll-out a major milestone in the fight

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Kenya, Vaccination, Girls
FILE - Children watch as another child is vaccinated in the town of Liboi, Kenya, July 27, 2011. Kenyan authorities on Friday launched a mass vaccination program against the human papilloma virus, or HPV. VOA

Kenyan authorities have begun a mass vaccination of girls against the human papilloma virus, HPV, which causes cervical cancer. According to the World Health Organization, the East Africa region has the highest rate of cervical cancer in the world. Kenya.

Kenya officially launched its HPV vaccination program Friday in the coastal town of Mombasa.

The vaccine will be administered free to all 10-year-old girls as part of the country’s routine immunization schedule. Girls will get the vaccine in two doses, six months apart.

President Uhuru Kenyatta termed the vaccine roll-out a major milestone in the fight against non-communicable diseases.

Kenya, Vaccination, Girls
The vaccine will be administered free to all 10-year-old girls as part of the country’s routine immunization schedule. Girls will get the vaccine in two doses, six months apart. VOA

“Access to the HPV vaccine by our girls will lead to the reduction of number of new cervical cancer cases and secure lives of our daughters and sisters,” he said. “This means that our young women who are critical to the future of our nation will be protected from early deaths.”

Kenya’s Ministry of Health says the vaccinations will cost about $7.7 million this year.

Dr. Collins Tabu, head of the National Vaccine Immunization Program in Kenya, touted the benefits of the program in a talk with reporters.

“The introduction of HPV vaccine within our setup has potential to cut back the burden of cervical cancer by close to 70 percent,” Tabu said. “If we achieve a good enough coverage, of about 80 percent.”

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He said at least seven women die every day through cervical cancer in Kenya.

“The human papilloma virus, the most common sexually transmitted disease with a prevalence of close to 50 percent within our borders, is the primary cause of more than 99 percent of all of the cervical cancers. There is a direct link, as we know today,” he said.

At least 115 other countries routinely administer the vaccine, including Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda. Tabu said because of the vaccine, Rwanda has nearly eliminated cervical cancer.

Kenya has moved more slowly, possibly because of debates around the safety of vaccines.  Earlier this decade, the Catholic Church in Kenya called for a boycott of a polio vaccination drive.

Kenya, Vaccination, Girls
Kenya officially launched its HPV vaccination program Friday in the coastal town of Mombasa. Pixabay

“It’s a bit embarrassing that Kenya may be the last or second last East African country to introduce the vaccine that is supposed to protect our girls against cervical cancer,” Tabu said.

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During Friday’s launch, Kenyatta dismissed claims the HPV vaccine might be unsafe, telling the crowd, “Let us not fight science.” (VOA)